Deirdre Kelly

Expert, Texpert


An honour, to be sure, to be written up in an academic journal. And an honour to be called an advocate for dancers’ rights. So don’t get me wrong: I am grateful. But in her review of my book, Ballerina: Sex, Scandal and Suffering Behind the Symbol of Perfection, Kate Cornell gets several things wrong.

She says I was inspired to do my book because of Jennifer Homans’s tome, Apollo’s Angels. This is patently untrue. I presented my proposal well before Homans’s book was published. I had started writing it before I even got a copy of her excellent book, and then I soon after stopped reading it as I did not want Homans’s powerful research to interfere in any way with my own. Cornell footnotes that I said publicly that Homans was my main influence, which stunned me, as I never did say that.

The footnote is inaccurate as well. It alludes to an online article where the topic never came up. In fact, the article is not really an article. It is a fun platform for self-promotion put out by a Toronto PR firm specializing in lifestyle brands. They asked me to give them a day in the life. I talk about drinking coffee. I do no talk about how I researched and wrote my book. There are, however, several other articles that do document the process. Cornell either never bothered to look for them, or decided instead to ignore them.

Cornell at first likes the book and takes pains to present my legacy as a dance critic who pulls no punches. This is a tremendous compliment, so I am thankful. This indeed is how I want to be remembered. But she ends the review abruptly, and even somewhat rudely, telling me to stick to newspaper writing. She claims I add nothing new to the literature of dance. Which is also untrue.

My book is full of original interviews; it combines academic research with populist reportage, from People to my own Globe and Mail newspaper. It addresses topics that even the ballet world is loath to air: sexism, racism, poverty, and alienation once the curtain falls on the final performance.

It is is not an academic book. It is meant for a general audience for whom ballet often remains at a remove, and is a mystery.

Like it or not, my book shows the human beings behind the dance, it tells their stories. My book has inspired many ballerinas world-wide to write me to thank me for telling the truth about their profession.

But I am writing now not to boast. I am writing to constructively and respectfully correct the record.

Here is an excerpt of the critique below:


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